The Writings of Abraham Lincoln— Volume 7: 1863– 1865

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Author: Abraham Lincoln

Opinion on the Loss of General R. H. Milroy’s Division. October 27, 1863.

In June last a division was substantially lost at or near Winchester, Va. At the time, it was under General Milroy as immediate commander in the field, General Schenck as department commander at Baltimore, and General Halleck as general-in-chief at Washington.

General Milroy, as immediate commander, was put in arrest, and subsequently a court of inquiry examined chiefly with reference to disobedience of orders, and reported the evidence.

The foregoing is a synoptical statement of the evidence, together with the judge-advocate-general’s conclusions. The disaster, when it came, was a surprise to all. It was very well known to Generals Shenck and Milroy for some time before, that General Halleck thought the division was in great danger of a surprise at Winchester; that it was of no service commensurate with the risk it incurred, and that it ought to be withdrawn; but, although he more than once advised its withdrawal, he never positively ordered it. General Schenck, on the contrary, believed the service of the force at Winchester was worth the hazard, and so did not positively order its withdrawal until it was so late that the enemy cut the wire and prevented the order reaching General Milroy.

General Milroy seems to have concurred with General Schenck in the opinion that the force should be kept at Winchester at least until the approach of danger, but he disobeyed no order upon the subject.

Some question can be made whether some of General Halleck’s dispatches to General Schenk should not have been construed to be orders to withdraw the force, and obeyed accordingly; but no such question can be made against General Milroy. In fact, the last order he received was to be prepared to withdraw, but not to actually withdraw until further order, which further order never reached him.

Serious blame is not necessarily due to any serious disaster, and I cannot say that in this case any of the officers are deserving of serious blame. No court-martial is deemed necessary or proper in the case.

A. LINCOLN.

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Chicago: Abraham Lincoln, "Opinion on the Loss of General R. H. Milroy’s Division. October 27, 1863.," The Writings of Abraham Lincoln— Volume 7: 1863– 1865, ed. Jameson, J. Franklin (John Franklin), 1859-1937 in The Writings of Abraham Lincoln—Volume 7: 1863–1865 Original Sources, accessed December 9, 2019, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=42ZSPKEZIC8CTGH.

MLA: Lincoln, Abraham. "Opinion on the Loss of General R. H. Milroy’s Division. October 27, 1863." The Writings of Abraham Lincoln— Volume 7: 1863– 1865, edited by Jameson, J. Franklin (John Franklin), 1859-1937, in The Writings of Abraham Lincoln—Volume 7: 1863–1865, Original Sources. 9 Dec. 2019. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=42ZSPKEZIC8CTGH.

Harvard: Lincoln, A, 'Opinion on the Loss of General R. H. Milroy’s Division. October 27, 1863.' in The Writings of Abraham Lincoln— Volume 7: 1863– 1865, ed. . cited in , The Writings of Abraham Lincoln—Volume 7: 1863–1865. Original Sources, retrieved 9 December 2019, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=42ZSPKEZIC8CTGH.